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Saturday, March 30, 2002

This is examination season. As winter ends, all talk is about the syllabus, examination, marks and grades. The kids are petrified. We see many young sleepless faces weighed down by the burdens of school education. Parents are even more worried, enquiring from friends and relatives about the best available options for their children’s future.

One of the great things in our society is the high premium put on childrens’ education. It is a wonderful trait and shows our hunger for learning and better life. Every mother who can think beyond two square meals and clothing for her family aspires for education in a reputed English medium private school for her children. Many middle-income families pool resources and spare no effort in securing admission in the best school possible. This fierce competition is understandable, given the limited jobs, and limited educational opportunities.

In all this mad rush, one vital issue is largely ignored. What really constitutes good education? Education is left entirely to the school management and indifferent schools are mushrooming, taking advantage of parents’ desperation.

We are led to believe that rote learning, heavy load of books, endless hours of dreary homework, and soulless examinations are the stuff of education. Real school education imparts clear understanding of various concepts, promotes logical thinking and improves communication skills. None of these is emphasized in most of our schools. Physical education and problems solving skills are also very critical to good education.

In Hyderabad city, with about a million children between the ages of 6 and 17, there are only a handful of reasonably good schools. Most schools foster neither initiative nor creativity. Stress is on monotonous repetition and rote learning and not on thinking or effective communication.

Most parents are deeply dissatisfied with these schools. But there is a vicious cycle in operation. Even if the more enlightened parents seek genuinely good schools, there is no supply. And if daring educators start good schools, most parents shun them, and prefer the trodden path. There are some schools emphasizing learning and growth, but parents panic after a few years and demand examinations, ranking and cramming.

The net result is most children going to schools are ending up without real knowledge or understanding. They may get good grades and later obtain college degrees. But the poor foundations laid in schools do not allow emergence of mature, confident, competent adults. And thousands of children burn out young, what with 14-16 hours of study with neither respite nor enthusiasm.

No parent wants to see the child stunted. And yet, unthinkingly the growth of most of our children is stunted. We need better schools, and parents need to appreciate the value of good schooling. Obviously people are willing to spend money. There are fancy schools charging upto Rs 3 lakh a year! Even middle class parents are spending Rs 500 – 1000 per month for education. Resources are not a problem. We need to promote many, many good schools with real education, and encourage parents to send their children to such schools. We need to understand that our children’s future is secure in schools fostering thinking, communication and creativity.


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